Philadelphia University formally dedicated the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service and its newly restored home, Roxboro House, at a Sept. 11 ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by faculty, staff, students, trustees, Specter family members, East Falls neighbors and other guests.
The dedication ceremony, taking place on the National Day of Service and Remembrance, also honored inspiring commitments to public service with two new annual awards for a deserving alumnus, Douglas Schwab ’76, and student, Emily Reynolds ’16.
“The Arlen Specter Center for Public Service is dedicated in Senator Specter’s memory, and it is a monument to his work ethic and personal values that we also believe in,” President Stephen Spinelli Jr. told some 250 guests gathered in front of Roxboro House under sunny skies.
Eileen Martinson, chair of the board of trustees, raised a toast to the late Sen. Specter, “whose tireless energy and vision forged a timeless friendship with Philadelphia University that we are grateful for every day,” and to his wife Joan and son Shanin, “who have continued that cherished friendship with us.”
At the close of the dedication, guests were invited to place a sunflower—the state flower of Specter’s home state of Kansas—in a planting bed. President Spinelli guided Joan Specter—in a vibrant yellow suit matching the color of the flowers—to help place the first flower. Sunflowers will be incorporated into the permanent landscape of Roxboro House.
Following the ribbon-cutting, Douglas Schwab and Emily Reynolds were presented with the two inaugural public service awards at a ceremony in the Kanbar Campus Center.
Schwab, who studied fashion apparel management, received the Joan Specter Award for Alumni Community Leadership, which recognizes the leadership of a PhilaU graduate through examples, deeds and words that inspire an enduring and positive impact in their community.
“Here, I learned that being creative is more than just making new products, new processes or creating new computer programs,” Schwab said of his time at PhilaU. “You learn to become someone who is an out-of-the-box thinker, and I think this can lead to creative leadership in every aspect of your life, as it did for me.”
Since 2009, Schwab has served as chair of the DelFest Foundation, an organization committed to raising awareness of social justice issues. Schwab also has been active in the Boy Scouts of America for more than 50 years, many of them in leadership roles. He is a member of the Cumberland Downtown Development Commission and was named Cumberland Maryland Citizen of the Year in 1998.
Joan Specter, who presented the award to Schwab, said, “It’s really great to be here today. I lived a block away and then, after I lived in that house, I moved another block away. I just couldn’t get away from Philadelphia University. It’s really a wonderful university.”
Reynolds, a physician assistant studies student, was honored with the Elsie H. Hillman Award for Student Public Service for her volunteer work with several campus student groups, including Colleges Against Cancer, Relay For Life and Habitat for Humanity. This summer, she volunteered to provide medical care in Honduras with PhilaU’s Global Medical Brigades chapter. After graduating, Reynolds plans to volunteer with Project Hope, which provides medical care, training and education in more than 35 countries.
“It is a privilege and great honor to be the recipient of this award,” said Reynolds, who attributed her achievement to her PhilaU professors, some of whom were in attendance. “You don’t volunteer thinking about any recognition, but to be recognized by the people who pushed me to be the person I am today is an incredible experience.”
The award was presented by Elsie H. Hillman, chair of the Elsie H. Hillman Foundation, who traveled from Pittsburgh to participate in the ceremonies honoring the Arlen Specter Center, Roxboro House and the public service awards.
Guests at the event were invited to tour Roxboro House, where a sampling of Sen. Specter’s archival collection of important documents, photographs and other memorabilia from his more than 50-year political career is on display.
The building, which dates from around 1800 and was restored to historic standards, is also being used for classes and, starting this fall, the Roxboro House Roundtables, a new weekly small seminar series for students, faculty and guests that addresses a wide range of historic and contemporary issues throughout the academic year.
In 2010, Sen. Arlen Specter donated to PhilaU his extensive archives including some 3,000 boxes of historic documents and papers, photos, videos and other memorabilia, the most important of which are being digitized under a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh and will be accessible to the public in about four years. Sen. Specter passed away in 2012.
The Specter Center’s first exhibition, “Single Bullet: Arlen Specter & The Warren Commission Investigation of the JFK Assassination,” which was on display in the Paul J. Gutman Library from October 2013 to July 2014, featured an interdisciplinary student analysis of the events surrounding the assassination.